Running a freelance business


If you’re planning running a freelance business you’ve no doubt come across all the posts that tell you what a fantastic life it is.

Freelancing means you can say farewell to the 9 to 5 grind, annoying bosses, make more money than you ever dreamed possible, and have a constant stream of high paying work.

Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s not all rosy.

The authors of those articles have skipped over what it means to be freelance.

I have been working as a freelance copywriter for over a decade now and, although some elements of what they say can be correct, there’s an awful lot more they’ve left out.

Are you ready for a balanced view of freelance life?

Say goodbye to the 9 to 5

OK, this is partly true. Without a boss to answer to you can work the hours that suit you.

However, that doesn’t mean those hours are better.

You can easily find yourself working into the wee small hours when deadlines loom. Likewise, weekends are often spent catching up on your admin and marketing.

In all likelihood (especially in the early days), you could end up working far more hours than you would in a regular job.

No more annoying bosses

True, you won’t have a boss breathing down your neck that’s always on your back about targets.

What you will have is a stream of clients all demanding you hit ridiculously tight deadlines.

On top of that, they’ll moan (not all clients whine but some do) about:

  • Your pricing
  • Choice of words
  • Use of contractions
  • What you produced isn’t what they wanted (despite you following their brief to the letter)

In fact, you’ll be exchanging one boss for multiple bosses who all work differently.

More money than you dreamed possible

Again, not always the case.

For starters, you can say goodbye to your regular pay cheque.

Your income will fluctuate wildly. Some months you’ll invoice a considerable amount of money, but this is usually followed by a few months of meager earnings.

It’s impossible to plan anything because you don’t know where your next job is coming from. If this is your primary household income, you’ll have to learn how to budget when the work drought hits (and it will).

Don’t forget, at the end of your financial year you’ll also have to cough up for your tax bill (personal and corporation if you’ve gone limited company) so it’s vital you’re organised and plan for this.

You’ll enjoy a constant stream of work

‘There’s enough work out there for everyone’ is the usual statement.

Yes, there probably is, but there’s also a lot of competition out there vying for it.

Sometimes you read about those rather smug freelancers who claim to have a 95% repeat business rate, who never have to market their services, and who are never out of work.

I find that very hard to believe.

If that’s true, they’re playing a very dangerous game.

What happens if some of those repeat business clients hit a difficult patch? Suddenly the clients find themselves having to cut costs and outsourcing is usually the first thing to go.

Then, one or two could have a change of management. The new blood may have their own pet freelancers they like to use. Perhaps they are very anti-outsourcing and decide to bring the work in-house?

The loss of even a small percentage of your repeat business could have a devastating effect on your business. And, if you’ve been slack on your marketing, you could find yourself up that rather smelly creek without a paddle.

Despite what you have read, every freelancer hits a slack patch. Sometimes you could be lucky and it only lasts for a few weeks. Other times, it can drag on for months.

The truth about freelancing

Freelancing isn’t always greener.

It’s very uncertain, can be very stressful, and will cause you to doubt yourself continuously.

Being a freelancer isn’t for everyone. However, if you’re able to cope with the dark side, it can also be a liberating way of working.


Sally Ormond set up Briar Copywriting back in 2007. Through good times and bad, she’s worked hard to build up a strong global client base, but she’s never complacent and always on the lookout for new clients who value professional copywriting.